One Of The Marine Corps' Most Legendary Heroes From Iraq Just Retired

news
Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, the outgoing I Marine Expeditionary Force sergeant major, gives remarks during a relief and appointment ceremony on Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 18, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Jacob Farbo

Editor’s Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.


A Navy Cross recipient who overcame grievous war wounds to continue to lead Marines on active duty has finally retired.

Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, perhaps best known for appearing in an iconic image by photographer Lucian Read, retired from his post as sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force on May 18, Marine officials said.

The famous photograph shows a wounded and bloody Kasal emerging from a building in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 supported by Marines on his right and left. Then a first sergeant, Kasal had sustained wounds from seven bullets and taken more than 43 pieces of grenade shrapnel during a firefight. He reportedly had lost 60 percent of his blood by the time he emerged from the house, supported by two lance corporals, but still brandishing his sidearm and Ka-Bar knife.

In 2006, Kasal would receive the Navy Cross, the military's second-highest award for valor, for his heroism that day. According to his medal citation, Kasal had rolled on top of a wounded Marine to shield him, absorbing the shrapnel from an enemy grenade with his own body.

"When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention," the citation read. "Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure."

The photograph captured that day would later provide inspiration to sculptor John Phelps, a Gold Star father whose son, Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Versions of Phelps' sculpture, Hell House, now stand at the entrance to wounded warrior Hope and Care Centers at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California.

Sgt. Maj. Bradley A. Kasal, sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Tactical Small Unit Leaders Course at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 26, 2017.U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Austin Mealy

A 2012 biography of Kasal by Nathaniel Helms, "My Men Are My Heroes," quickly became a staple of the Marine Corps Commandant's Professional Reading List.

The book characterizes Kasal as an icon even prior to his heroism in Fallujah.

"Even before entering Iraq, Kasal was almost mythical among Marines, known for leading his troops at the front to ensure that he would always be the first man into a fight," Helms writes. "In his mind, that is what Grunts do, and Brad Kasal is a true Grunt."

Kasal previously served as the senior enlisted leader of 4th Marine Division before becoming sergeant major of the Camp Pendleton-based I MEF. The posting is one of the most prestigious available to a Marine Corps sergeant major.

When Kasal assumed his post at I MEF in February 2015, he addressed troops within the unit with a brief and characteristically gritty speech.

"To all the Marines and sailors of I MEF, I thank you for what you do," he said. "I thank you for creating hate and discontent among the bad guys around the world, and I'm truly humbled to work for you and serve beside you."

When Kasal surrendered his sword of office to conclude a 34-year career May 18, he kept his message simple.

"I want every Marine and sailor to understand they enlisted for a reason and a purpose," Kasal said, according to a Marine Corps news release. "That purpose was to do something better, to swear to support and defend the constitution, and to be a part of something greater. I ask the Marines and sailors to always be proud of that."

More from Military.com:

WATCH NEXT:

CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.

Read More Show Less

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.

Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

Read More Show Less

President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.

It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.

The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.

Read More Show Less

BYESVILLE — A Meadowbrook High School student removed from class last Friday for being intoxicated is now facing a felony charge after allegedly threatening to shoot people if the previous incident harmed his chances to join a branch of the United States military.

Gabriel D. Blackledge, 18, of Cambridge, is facing one count of making terrorist threats, a third-degree felony, filed by the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office on Thursday. Blackledge remained incarcerated in the county jail on a $250,000 bond with no 10 percent allowed, according to the sheriff's office's website.

Read More Show Less